The Gift of Time
A curse. That’s what it was. At least he thought it was.
Zachary Willowbrook looked at himself with regret. Zachary was special. This was what his mother always told him. But why did it have to happen? Zachary didn’t know. All he knew is that it happened.
One might even argue that what Zachary was born with was a gift. Going back to the beginning, Zachary Willowbrook was born on February 29, 2004 in the city of Nimbleburg, Ohio. It was not apparent then that there was anything wrong with Zachary.
Upon leaving the hospital, Zachary was a normal child. His mother was so excited to have her first child. The father was especially proud, since he would be able to have a son to raise.
As the time passed, it was then that they noticed that something was different about Zachary. This occurred about a month later, in the evening.
The mother approached the phone.
The father shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “What’s the problem, Stacy?”
Stacy began to sniff, and wiped away a tear. “Davy, our child is not normal.”
David frowned. Even though he preferred the name David, she still called him “Davy”. Looking at the worry in his wife’s face, he decided that tonight was not the night to argue. “What do you mean he’s not normal?”
“Haven’t you seen him? It’s been exactly one month since we took him home from the hospital, and he doesn’t look any more than a week old!”
“Just give it some time, honey. Maybe there is some kind of delay in his development.”
Stacy placed the phone back on the receiver. “I hope you’re right, Davy. He’ll surely grow in the next few months, won’t he?”
Three more months passed. There were several more sleepless nights, with each parent taking turns tending to Zachary. One sleepless night in particular was nearing an important milestone.
David squinted his eyes and placed his hands over his ears. “Your turn. I tended to him last time.”
Stacy staggered out of bed, barely able to keep her eyes open. “No it’s not.” she yawned. “I changed him last time. It’s your turn.”
David closed his eyes and groaned. “He’s crying now. You go see him. Stacy?”
The crying got louder.
David grabbed his wife and began shaking her. “Stacy! Wake up!”
Stacy awakened, her eyes wide open and squinting. “What? What is it?”
Stacy listened to the cry. “Oh. It’s our son. Did you see him yet?”
“No. I thought it was your turn.”
Stacy scowled. “Let’s both see him!”
David sighed and quietly moaned. “But I’m tired….”
“So am I, Davy! Tired or not, we got to take care of Zachary.”
Stacy, in her nightgown, put on her robe and grabbed David by the hand. He was wearing just a T-shirt and red briefs.
They ran to Zachary’s room. From last time, Zachary didn’t look much different. His face looked a little older, but that was about it.
Stacy picked Zachary up out of his crib and rocked him back and forth. “What’s wrong, Zacky wacky?”
Zachary looked at Stacy and smiled. “B-b-b-b….!….aa!”
David yawned. “Shouldn’t we change him?”
Stacy shook her head. “No. I changed him an hour ago. He doesn’t smell like he needs to be changed again, either.” Stacy sat Zachary back down in his crib. He was now falling asleep. Upon looking back at him, she began to shake her head. “No….”
David placed his hand on Stacy’s arm. “What’s wrong, honey?”
Stacy placed her hand on her face. “Shouldn’t he look older than this by now? Davy, it’s been 4 months since we had Zachary. He doesn’t even look like he’s 4 months old.”
“How old does he look to you?
“I don’t know! Maybe about a month old.”
“Stacy. You’re worrying too much. Just give it more time. He’ll grow.”
Stacy hugged David, as she wiped away a tear. “I hope you’re right, Davy. I hope you’re right.”
Both David and Stacy left Zachary’s room, their eyelids still heavy. This left Zachary all alone. He slept peacefully in his blue crib. His blue crib sat in a room surrounded by blue. Different shades of blue. Baby blues and darker shades of blue for his crib.
Stacy designed what she believed was the perfect room for a baby boy. According to her, she was quite successful. A banner of different animals ran the whole perimeter of the room. Everything was spaced evenly apart from each other. The changing table, the dresser, the crib and the rocking chair. The room was clean, with everything neatly organized and everything in its place.
Zachary slept on. He was greeted by pleasant dreams, which brought a smile to his face. During that night, he didn’t wake up again. At least not until morning.
Eight more months passed. It was now March 1, 2005. Looking at the calendar, Stacy cried. With Zachary being born on February 29th, she could not celebrate his birthday this year.
And how bad she wanted to celebrate his birthday! She had everything thing planned. Balloons, toys, her family, and a tiny cake, just for Zachary. When she saw the date, she decided to cancel everything.
When David saw her do this, he was shocked. “Why did you cancel?” he said with a sigh. “We can still celebrate his birthday, even though it’s not the 29th.”
Stacy shook her head. “No! His birthday is going to be celebrated on the 29th! Now Davy, how would you feel if your birthday was not celebrated on the same day?”
“I wouldn’t like that. So, now what? Do we celebrate his birthday in 2008, when he’s four?”
Stacy stared at David, with a crazed look on her face. “Yes. And we can make it an even bigger celebration, since it only comes around every four years. Let’s do that, okay Davy?”
It’s David….David quietly muttered to himself. “Alright honey. We’ll do that.”
With it being one year since Zachary was born, Stacy started to worry again. She brought David into the room and pointed her finger at Zachary. “Does this look like a one-year old to you?!” Stacy shouted. “Tell me, David.”
David hesitated. “Well….”
“He doesn’t, honey. Not at all!”
“We’re taking him to a doctor. Something is definitely wrong with him.”
And with that, Stacy set up the appointment with the pediatrician. She picked up Zachary and carried him to the car. She fastened him in his car seat. She and David got in the car and drove to the doctor’s office.
Dr. Miller carefully examined Zachary. After running a few brief tests, he spoke to Stacy.
“Your child is very healthy,” he told her.
“He’s not,” Stacy argued, shaking her head.
“Let me explain,” Dr. Miller said. “Now Stacy, how old is your child?”
“Zachary is one.”
“Now that is something that troubles me. After looking at your child, he clearly looks about 3 months old to me. A very healthy 3 month old, but nowhere near 12 months. His development is normal. His bones, muscles, everything. What’s not normal is his aging. Now, what day was he born?”
“On a Sunday.”
“I mean, what date?”
“February 29th. About last year exactly.”
Dr. Miller smiled. “But it’s March 1st today. Your child was born on a leap year. Even more rare, on a leap day. Even with this being so, your child should age normally.”
Stacy sighed. “But he’s not! Has this even happened before?”
Dr. Miller shook his head. “Oh heavens, no! In all the years of my profession, I remember one other patient that was born on February 29th. It was a girl named Madelyn and she aged normally. Your case is special. I have never seen anything like it before. With this being the case, I don’t know why it’s happening.”
Stacy was now in tears. “How are we going to treat Zachary? He doesn’t age!”
“It seems like he is aging to me. Just very slowly.”
“At what rate is he aging? How can we speed up his aging process?”
Dr. Miller stared at Stacy. “Calm down. I don’t know how fast he’s aging, but I know how we can figure this out. Bring him in next year. We’ll see if he’s twelve months then. Hopefully, everything should balance and the aging should catch up. As for speeding up the aging process, I don’t have an answer for that. I am not an expert in that field.”
Still sobbing, Stacie got up and left the room with Zachary.
David sighed. “She’s upset. We’ll see you next year, doc.”
With that, another year passed. Stacy was now eight months pregnant with her second child. The date was March 1, 2006. Exactly one year later.
With that, Zachary looked a little older. Not much different. Just slightly older.
After coming back from Dr. Miller, Stacy now knew how slow Zachary was aging. Zachary was now two, but the pediatrician placed his age at 6 months. “Three months, Davy!” Stacy sobbed. “Zachary is only aging three months a year!”
Stacy couldn’t figure it out, and neither could David. All they knew is that they had a special child. A child blessed with the gift of time.
©2012 K. L. Walker